Non-profit organizations face many challenges, especially in times of financial uncertainty. Competition for donors is fierce, and small organizations struggle to amplify their reach. Marketing can help, if non-profits implement the right strategies and stay focused on their objectives, but 20% of non-profits don’t even have a marketing budget and many others aren’t following a smart strategic plan for their marketing efforts. Here’s how they can do better:

1. Set Attainable Marketing Goals That are Realistic for Your Budget

If you’re among the 20% of organizations that lack a designated marketing budget, the first step is to set a budget that works for your non-profit. Non-profit organizations often make do with limited budgets for everything from staff to facilities to marketing, setting themselves up for failure via something the Stanford Social Innovation Review describes as “the non-profit starvation cycle.” To put it succinctly, when non-profit organizations reduce expenses to the point of debilitating their infrastructure, they cannot adequately function nor can they serve their target audience. Unfortunately, many organizations are quick to slash their marketing budgets when times get tough, and this is the exact wrong approach to take. A realistic marketing budget is generally 5-15% of one’s operating expenses.

Once your budget is set, it’s time to set attainable marketing goals to make sure you put that budget to good use. Non-profit organizations have a tendency to try to do everything, but that just isn’t realistic on most budgets. Instead, focus on a few specific areas to drive growth.

Thanks to for the image.

Of course, non-profits want to see an increase in donations, volunteers, and awareness, but failing to tie those vague aspirations to specific marketing actions can mean wasted time, effort, and money. A non-profit marketing strategist can help define clear goals and illuminate a solid, data-driven path to reach them. Then, on-going review and monitoring can ensure that each action is leading to the desired outcome – and if it isn’t, you know it’s time to change course before more time and money are wasted.

Think S.M.A.R.T. when planning your non-profit marketing goals.

2. Defend Against Activity Creep

You set a budget, and you started the strategic marketing efforts that should help you reach your goals. Now, following a long tradition in the non-profit industry, your board wants more. You can’t give them more without taking away from your existing campaigns, so what can you do?

  1. Think about hours and resources. How much times goes into your existing campaigns? How much money?
  2. If you want to take on additional marketing campaigns, ask for additional resources. If resources aren’t available, ask the board to set priorities with you and stick to them.
  3. Resist the urge to expand just for the sake of expanding. It’s more important to do a few things well than to do everything sporadically.

3. Create a Non-Profit Value Proposition That Resonates

While some donors and volunteers will help you out of the goodness of their hearts, you’ll need to convince the rest and you’ll need a strong value proposition to do so.

Start by clearly describing how people benefit from joining or helping your cause. Then move to identifying what your organization does that similar non-profits don’t.

Companies have products or services to promote, but non-profits have stories. How is your organization improving lives, advancing research, or using donations to make a difference in the world and the lives of the people involved? The best non-profit marketers have a clear answer for that question, along with creative ways to tell the stories that illustrate their successes (and their needs). The simplest way to go about storytelling for non-profits is to focus on blogs, social media posts, press releases, and other content that turn your donors and volunteers into heroes for your cause.

A 2017 Community Brands Member Loyalty Study found that the most frustrating content was irrelevant to their interests or flat-out boring. Take the time to tailor your content to your unique audience.

4. Diversify Your Marketing Efforts

In the age of popular crowdfunding options like GoFundMe and Facebook donations, some non-profit marketers get stuck thinking of social platforms as the primary way to connect. While the importance of social media in non-profit marketing cannot be denied (it’s a great way to share those stories and raise awareness), it shouldn’t be the only platform your organization uses to reach donors and volunteers. Press releases, events (in person or online), email, direct mail, billboards, and even search or banner advertising on the right websites are all smart ways to connect with the people who matter to your organization.

Consider the following must-have non-profit marketing platforms:

  • Email – Communicate regularly with people who have expressed an interest in your organization. Over time, this will be one of the most cost-effective marketing options you have.
  • Social Media – Engage regularly with your existing audience for free or expand your reach with affordable targeted ads.
  • Google Ads – Grants are available to qualified non-profit marketers.
  • Direct Mail – Direct mail response rates are at an all-time high of 5.1%, and 77% of millennials respond to direct mail as an advertising strategy.

Offline marketing is important for non-profits. The Abilia Donor Loyalty Study concluded that 73% of donors like short, snail-mail letters, and 56% want to see a printed annual report.

5. Update Your Website

Non-profit organizations are often quick to skimp on their websites, favoring old and outdated platforms to avoid the expense of a modern, mobile-friendly site. While website development can be costly, there are also affordable ways to bring your website out of the dark ages. Non-profit organizations can choose to work with web development interns, set volunteers up with user-friendly platforms like WordPress or SquareSpace, or consult with a professional marketing agency for strategic website design.

One of the most important things to consider when evaluating a non-profit website is the content architecture. Most organizations have a lot of content, but over time, it’s become disorganized and difficult to access. A solid content strategy paired with SEO tactics can help make things easier for your visitors and improve your search presence at the same time.

According to CharityNavigator, 40% of non-profit website traffic came from mobile users in 2018. We have every reason to believe those numbers will continue to grow exponentially as people do more and more from their tablets and smartphones. Mobile-friendly is a must for non-profit websites!

Does your organization need help developing the right non-profit marketing strategies to win over your donors and volunteers? Contact us to learn more about how we can help – we love working with organizations that are doing good in the world!

Marketing During Coronavirus

So what’s next?

At this point in the coronavirus pandemic, you’ve no doubt adjusted to remote operations, updated your customers on your status, and you’ve probably even sent out a tip or two about social distancing. But in many ways the hard part is just beginning: seeking growth amidst a slowing economy. So what should your marketing look like during the current pandemic?

Continuing to Market During a Slowdown Will Drive Greater Long-Term Revenue

First, a bit of personal history. I began my career as a marketing consultant at the tail end of the dot-com bubble. When it burst, one of the client projects I did was to evaluate the impact of marketing spend during a recession and I found something surprising:

Cutting marketing activities and spend during difficult times helps in the short term, but significantly damages a brand’s market share in the long term

We know this thanks to some strong historical research using a dataset called the Profit Impact for Marketing Strategy that has tracked companies’ spend in different areas and subsequent market performance since the 1970s. And what the PIMS data says is that, while companies that cut promotional spend usually see stronger returns during a recession, those returns come at the expense of long-term market share.

Marketing During Coronavirus - Average Return for Companies During a Recession Based on Marketing Spend


Marketing During the Cornavirus - the ROI Effect of Cutting Marketing Spend During a Recession

Note: a deeper review of the data is available in this presentation by Michael Johnston.


How Do You Market in Uncertain Times?

Of course it’s one thing to say “keep marketing” and it’s quite another to figure out how to do so in the face of reduced budgets, declining revenue, and general uncertainty. In these situations, digging in to a few core metrics can help you understand exactly where to focus resources and where to cut back on activity:

  • Impression Volume: Fundamentally, you want to keep your impression share as high as you reasonably can in order to capitalize on the fact that others are likely scaling back their activities. These impressions can come from anywhere: email, SEO, organic/viral social, sales touches, etc. The important thing is to make sure you’re not letting your volume of communications to the market slow.
  • Cost per Lead: Of course, not all impressions are created equal. No doubt you have a few low performing marketing channels that are taking time and budget from other areas. Now is the time to review your costs per lead across your various channels and cut out your low performers. Target cost per lead benchmarks for a number of industries from GoConvert appear below (as with any benchmark, your mileage will no doubt vary).

Cost Per Lead Benchmarks

  • Cost per sale: Arguably the most relevant metric to business results is your cost per sale. Here, you’re looking for the cheapest source of leads that convert to sales. What can you do to drive more volume in those channels, and where can you pause more expensive activities?


  • Time to close: Finally, keep an eye on your conversion timeframe from lead to sale. It is very common for decision cycles to lengthen during uncertain times, and you want to be hyper-aware of any changes that will impact your revenue forecasting.

The Most Cost-Effective Marketing Channels During a Recession

With the above in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most effective marketing channels to use during the COVID-19 pandemic:

1. Email: There’s a reason why you’re seeing emails from companies you’d thought forgot about you: early data is showing that email engagement is rising during the coronavirus pandemic.

Marketing During Coronavirus - Email Response Rates Since March from BounceX

March and April 2020 Email Interaction Data from BounceX

With more people in front of their devices for longer periods of time, coupled with the fact that increasing email volume has little incremental cost, this channel makes an ideal platform to stay in front of your customers.

But it’s not just the low cost of email that makes it an ideal tool. It’s the fact that email is the best lead conversion and customer upselling tool you have.

Acquiring a new customer costs five times more than growing revenue from an existing customer

Forrester research noted that growing business from your existing database is five times more cost effective than finding new customers. And there’s no time like a global pandemic to start boosting your marketing ROI via email.


2. Organic Social: As you’d expect if people were stuck inside for longer periods of time, social media analytics company RivalIQ has found that social engagement has increased across its user base.

Graph indicating that engagement rates have gone up correlated to a decline in posting frequency.

Interestingly enough, this growth has occurred in spite of posting frequency actually falling to ~3 posts weekly. The drop in posting is is likely due to many companies not quite wanting to return to normal scheduled activities in light of changing conditions, but the rising engagement indicates that, just as with email, people are spending more time on their social channels.

While organic social media typically doesn’t enjoy the same reach as paid social posts, you can make up for a lower ad budget by interacting more with your followers in order to boost engagement.

3. SEO: how many of you would have turned to search engine optimization in response to a pandemic? While SEO is generally not thought of as a fast-acting marketing channel, the fact is that people can only be glued to the coronavirus news for so long before they’re going to return to their normal browsing habits. And with more people stuck inside with nothing to do, overall search volume is skyrocketing.

Web browsing has increased by 70% according to one media study

There’s never been a better time to freshen up your site’s content, push out that white paper, or make sure that your metadata is as cleaned and optimized as it can be. Google ranks sites based on recency of updates (among many other factors), and you don’t want to be losing impressions because someone else posted a more current blog.

What Should Marketers Say During Coronavirus?

You’ve probably seen (or sent) a version of the “standard” pandemic response email dozens of times by now: a few vague platitudes about being “in this together,” a note on operational changes, and maybe a discount offer or two. But now that we’re more than a month into social distancing, there’s not much new most brands will be able to contribute to the pandemic conversation and market research studies have shown that brands are not seeing advertising damage their reputations during this time, so it’s more than appropriate to return to your “normal” campaigns.

Marketing During Coronavirus - Consumer Advertising Attitudes

It’s appropriate to return to “normal” marketing messages, provided you recognize the “new normal”

An understanding of how your target audience’s needs have shifted, and how your value proposition will need to adjust to meet those needs, is your best friend when developing your ongoing “corona campaigns”. Here are a few messaging tips for how to shape your marketing messages during COVID-19:

1. Keep Practicality and Direct Action at Your Message’s Core

The majority of consumers and businesses are tightening their belts during this uncertain period, so your messaging should stay focused on the very immediate, practical benefits your call to action will deliver. If your product or service is discretionary, what are some ways in which it can help your customers deal with the current situation? How can you help their peace of mind?

If you’re offering a more “essential” product or service, how will your customers access it? What does the process look like? Focus on the details of your offer, as opposed to awareness-based campaigns. A recent Coronavirus Trust Barometer report from Edelman provides guidance on the specific tone to strike:

Marketing During Coronavirus - Consumers' Messaging Expectations


2. Use Deals and Discounts Sparingly

Offering deep discounts is a double-edged sword: you might need them to encourage purchase from an otherwise reluctant audience, but that same audience will remember that low price down the road and come to expect it. Two industries stuck in this cycle are the automotive industry with its 0% down financing and fast food chains with their dollar menus. You can counteract this issue with limited time offers, but you’ll need to be judicious about deploying your doorbusters. You may create long-term price concerns that are difficult to overcome.

In these situations, it might be more appropriate to offer additional incentives with purchase such as free support, other giveaways, product tie-ins, and more rather than an initial heavy discount.

3. References to the Pandemic Should Come With Action That Can Help

If you are still referencing the COVID-19 pandemic in your marketing, consumer mood has shifted from desires for information to expectations for action. And those brands that are taking action: raising money, making donations, shifting production to meet PPE demands, are the ones best-positioned to earn future business:

Marketing During Coronavirus - Future Impact on Brands

Think of Twitter’s CEO donating $1 billion to coronavirus relief, or Nordstrom retraining its tailors to make PPE. These are the actions that consumers expect.


Marketing During Coronavirus Will Take Caution and Patience, but it Will Pay Off

We hope that this post has been helpful as you gather yourself for the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’d like to schedule a conversation about exactly how you can keep marketing during these uncertain time, please contact us.

Negativity is an attention magnet.

These days, you could be forgiven for thinking that the world is falling apart. The worst of humanity seems to fill our newsfeeds on a daily basis, to the point where all that bad news appears to be seriously affecting people’s mental health.

The Challenge of Marketing a Good Cause - Is the World on Fire?

Actual photograph of the world today?

But in reality, the world is safer than ever beforecrime in the U.S. is approaching historic lows, and the U.S.’s renewable energy production recently surpassed coal-based output for the first timeElon Musk, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet all think that now is the best time to be alive.

So why is it so hard for positive messages to cut through the clutter?

The answer is negativity bias, and it makes marketing a positive product or positive message more difficult than ever. Fortunately for those of us trying to fight the “good” fight, the recipe for successfully marketing good causes does exist.

Let’s start by examining the main challenge a marketer faces when trying to promote a positive message.

What is Negativity Bias?

Numerous studies have confirmed that people gravitate more toward negative content, which is likely caused by our brains being wired to respond more sharply to perceived threats. The majority of media and websites, driven by the goal of raising advertising revenue, have leaned into this negativity bias in order to grow viewership, which leaves little room for organizations looking to promote a positive message.

Or does it?

The reality is that people crave good news and positive stories. Promoting them simply takes a lot more work and a defined strategy in order to cut through the negativity. Let’s look at five ways to market good causes below.

Five Ways to Market Good Causes

1. Speak Directly to the Tangible Benefit Your Audience Will Receive

The most important realization for any organization trying to recruit consumers for a positive cause is that the altruists in any market represent a small percentage of the total universe. Let’s look at green purchasing as an example:

What this data means is that at the end of the day, no matter how noble your cause, people will still make their purchase decisions based on perceived individual benefits (value, convenience, price, etc.).

Your marketing should lean into this realization, and focus on the tangible benefits your audience will experience as individuals if they choose your offering. Data can help immensely here, as we’ll see below.

2. Put Data on Your Side

For the purposes of marketing “good”, there are two types of data:

  • Statistics which show the extent of the problem you’d like your audience to solve
  • Data that shows how your audience will benefit from your solution

As we’ve already learned, the first dataset will get people’s attention, but the second will drive them to action.

Let’s take renewable energy as an example, specifically combating global warming through solar power.

Let’s read that statement as an individual human. What can one person possibly do about such a huge issue? For most of us, very little, which is why it’s important to focus more heavily on individual benefits.

  • How your audience will benefit: switching to solar power will save you $1,000 a year in electricity costs

How to Market a Good Cause - The Tangible Benefits of Switching to Solar Power

This second data point, drawn from this CleanTechnica data, links the action you want your audience to take, switching from fossil fuels, to the individual benefit that will help push them to make a decision.

Communicating with this kind of individual benefit data will help you grow traction in any marketplace.


3. Identify and Resolve Your Market’s Adoption Barriers

Customers will always follow the path of least resistance. So remove the resistance.

Customer purchase decisions generally follow the path of least resistance. While there are always exceptions, most people will choose the cheapest, easiest solution for most products. So what does this mean when you’re marketing a good cause?

Unfortunately, if your solution asks your audience to go out of their way, invest a lot of time for an uncertain return, or pay more, it will often fall on deaf ears. And the key to solving this challenge is to do the legwork in order to make adoption as easy as possible for your audience.

Five Ways to Market a Good Cause - a Paper Cup

Please recycle me

Here, I’ll use an example from a printing company trying to sell an improved paper cup to a major food and beverage retailer that would have made the recycling of that retailer’s cups much easier. The cost of using this new cup would have increased the price of each cup by a fraction of a cent. This doesn’t sound like much, but for a publicly owned company purchasing millions of cups a day, the profit impact plus the effort of switching vendors proved to be too much.

What could this printing company have done? Perhaps they could have offered discounts in other areas to put their price at parity. Perhaps they could have waived other charges. Or perhaps they were just facing a bridge too far. But the point is that “doing good” is not enough. The barriers that this particular customer faced needed to be removed.

How do we do it? Make the path you want your audience to take dead simple.

If you’re collecting donations, why not go to people’s houses instead of requiring them to come to you? If you’re trying to promote green energy, it might be time to hire a lobbyist to get preferential legislation passed that tilts the scales in your favor. If you’re marketing a more expensive green product, consider what you can do to come close to price parity with less eco-friendly competitors.

These efforts are difficult, but they matter when you’re dealing with decisions based on fractions of a cent.

4. Build External Pressure

As we touched on earlier, nothing motivates a business or market more than bad news. Poor press, public backlash, or shifting market preferences can all push an organization to take action.

How to Market a Good Cause - Jon Stewart and Mitch McConnell

Jon Stewart in the Senate hallway before the final vote on the 9/11 First Responders’ Compensation Fund.

Let’s take Jon Stewart as an example. His recent push to get the federal government to re-authorize the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund saw him going to great lengths to call out senators who were viewed as obstructing the bill’s passage, ultimately leading to the bill’s reauthorization for the foreseeable future.

How can you ramp up the pressure on your audience? There are many tactics to do so, from letter-writing to Greenpeace’s more controversial direct action efforts. These days, a coordinated social media campaign can often be effective. The key is to use this approach over time, and provide a pathway for those involved to take action in the meantime (per our third point above).

5. Dominate the News Cycle – with Positivity

Finally, it’s important to remember that more and more individuals are providing news and other content via social media. And deep down, people crave positive content.

A study from the New York Times and the Marketing Science Institute found that while content that evoked anger or anxiety was more frequently shared, positive content was actually more viral overall.

Over the long term, positive content is more viral.

As well, social media scientist Dan Zarrella has shown that the more negative your account, the more you’ll see your followers leave.

Five Ways to Market a Good Cause - the Impact of Negative Posts on Follower Count


So what’s our lesson here? If you post positive messages and content about all the good results your cause is generating (as opposed to the challenges it faces), you’ll be doing a great job of counteracting the negativity generated out in the media.

And you want to tout those wins as often as you can – one study found that a ratio of 5 positive interactions were required to counteract one negative attitude or behavior. So turn up the volume and let your positive vibes fly!

I hope that you’ve found our five tips to market good causes in a negative world valuable. If you’d like to talk more about how to get your positive message out to your audience, please get in touch!


Four Ways to Survive the Death of the Marketing Middle Class

Although you might not be aware of it, your business is locked in a digital marketing arms race. And there are increasing signs that the ultimate victors will be those companies that can afford ever-increasing marketing investments.

A few examples:

Facebook Organic Reach Decline


Marketing is Getting More Expensive

In the past, it might have been good enough to have a smart digital marketer in your department who could keep you afloat with efforts to drive organic traffic. But with digital marketing real estate becoming more expensive by the hour, the lion’s share of web traffic will go to those who can afford to invest the most in paid awareness, which will favor larger organizations.

So where does that leave those of us with limited marketing budgets, marketing’s “middle class”? We may indeed be facing the death of the digital marketing middle class, but don’t worry, we’ve got three ways to survive and grow your marketing presence online.

How to Best Invest Limited Marketing Budgets

1. Hyper-Target Your Content Marketing and Social Media Strategy

One of the biggest mistakes we see smaller marketers trying to make is stretching their efforts too thinly. If you have limited resources, it’s simply not possible to be present everywhere you might find a customer. And this is important to recognize, because successful marketing requires a certain level of impression volume to be effective.

A good rule of thumb: you need to get your message in front of someone 7 times before it will register with them.

It’s much better to execute a smaller-scale campaign very well and be very responsive to that particular audience than to try and boil the ocean. What does that mean in practicality?

  • Scale back your social ambitions: You don’t need to be present on every channel (although you should reserve your account names just in case). Instead, focus on building a community and driving engagement on the one or two channels where your efforts can have the biggest impact. Be relentless about participating in discussions and responding to customers. This engagement will be key to building your audience.
  • Tighten your geographic or market focus: Everyone wants an international business, but budget often gets in the way. If you can’t afford to reach everyone you’d like, focus on the areas where you’re getting the most return. That might be a few cities, or a particular industry within a larger market. Look for patterns, and double-down where you see results.
  • Choose a keyword niche to dominate: Keyword targeting is the core of any good SEO strategy. But when you’re competing with companies that have an army of paid content writers on staff, the best way to drive organic traffic is to focus on a smaller keyword or search phrase niche and become the most visible resource in that particular space.

2. Maintain at Least a Small Paid Ad Presence

As shown below, the top spot on Google captures approximately 30% of search traffic, with the top 5 results driving ~80% of traffic. As we saw above, with Google Ads now comprising 40-50% of the listings on the first search engine results page (SERP), this means that, like it or not, you’ll need a paid ad presence on Google to keep your share of search constant.

4 Ways to Survive the Death of Marketing's Middle Class - Chitika's Research on Share of Impressions by Page Position

To do so cost effectively, be ruthlessly targeted with your ad keywords.  Focus only on those that are the most relevant to your business and drive lead conversion cost effectively. Review your data weekly until you’ve settled your keyword list, and then focus on optimizing your spend appropriately to maintain position.

3. Mine Those Who Already Know You

Acquiring a new customer costs five times more than growing revenue from an existing customer

One of the most overlooked resources in any business is its existing list of leads and customers. According to Forrester Research, growing business from your existing database is five times more cost effective than finding new customers. However old they are, these contacts are already favorably disposed to your business, and may just need to have an offer in front of them at the right time to convert. The trick to doing so is staying disciplined using the process below.

  • Set up a regular communications schedule to everyone on your list
  • Plan out an offer series mixed with informational content to keep each message fresh
  • Test all aspects of your campaigns to identify which elements (email send times, subject lines, etc.) drive the biggest response
  • Drill down on your non-responsive contacts – for those individuals who never open an email, does a phone call re-activate them, or have they left their company?
  • Use periodic surveys with incentives as a way to understand what will drive contacts to future purchases

A last note here – don’t worry about unsubscribes (unless they come in droves). Any lead who removes themselves from your mailing list is not someone who will purchase from you, and it lets you focus your attention on those who will.

4. Prioritize Your Marketing Software Investment

Roughly 6,829 marketing software tools exist as of this writing, and that number is surely growing by the minute.'s Marketing Technology Lanscape in 2018’s Marketing Technology Landscape in 2018 – that’s a lot of software!

Such a high volume of tools can make it difficult to allocate your software budget. Worse, you might feel that you have to purchase a certain tool in order to drive results. With that in mind, here are the ways in which we recommend prioritizing your marketing software spend (and what we recommend getting for free).

Prioritized List of Essential Marketing Software

  1. Website CMS/Lead Capture: Your marketing won’t be effective if it’s not bringing people in the door, and for most of us, this means our web presence is critical. While any software that will help you capture leads (landing page/form software, chatbots, etc.) can certainly help, there are a number of free CMS tools like WordPress available that will get you started.
  2. Email Marketing and Automation: Once you’ve captured a lead, it’s time to drive that lead to conversion. And to do that, you’ll need email to stay in front of them. The best email marketing tools include marketing automation that can execute campaigns based on a lead’s behavior.
  3. Web/Campaign Tracking and Analytics: Google’s Marketing Platform is the most effective platform for tracking campaign performance and web traffic, and it offers a robust suite of free tools. Combined with Google Search Console and Google My Business, you won’t find a better combination.
  4. Search/Social Media Marketing: it’s not always ideal to manage campaigns across multiple platforms, but the free built-in tools for most of the major networks (Google Ads, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) are more than robust enough for daily use.
  5. CRM: Leads and contacts are the lifeblood of your business, and a system to organize them is essential. A well-configured CRM system will also support your sales and marketing activities operations through list management, lead tracking/scoring, automated processes/reminders, and more. Many CRMs provide some level of email marketing capability as well.

From this point forward, your choice of software will depend on your budget, your operational requirements, and where you can drive the biggest return by becoming more sophisticated. But if you start with the five essential marketing software tools above you’ll be building a solid foundation.


Conclusion – a Healthy, Cost Effective Marketing Strategy

We hope that you’ve found the above helpful in prioritizing your marketing investments. Good luck, and if you’d like to discuss how this approach might work in your business, please contact Young Marketing Consulting today.





Six-Step Year-End Marketing Checklist

It’s hard to believe, but 2018 will be over in a few weeks. Before the new year arrives, it’s worth taking a step back to assess your marketing performance in order to build your marketing strategy for 2019. Let’s take a look at six steps you can take to make sure your marketing stays on track to big returns next year.

2018’s Year-End Marketing Checklist

Step 1. Assess Your Marketing ROI by Channel

Most of us keep a close eye on our marketing ROI for a particular campaign, but how often do we step back and ask whether we should even be executing a particular campaign? The best tool I’ve found to do so has been a (relatively) straightforward ROI breakout by channel. The metrics you’ll want to consider:

  • Cost per qualified lead by channel
  • Cost per sale by channel
  • Revenue generated per channel
  • Marketing spend per channel

The numbers above will give you what you need to determine your marketing ROI by channel, as well as identify any conversion hurdles that could improve that figure. As an example, if you’re heavily invested in social media but struggle to generate traffic or sales returns from that channel, it’s worth asking whether that spend could be better used on other activities.

Step 2. Audit Your Web Performance

Your web presence is one of the most critical marketing tools and customer interaction points. Which is why it’s vital to regularly take stock of your web performance metrics to identify any significant wins or serious concerns. I recommend starting with three high-level metrics:

  1. Web traffic
  2. On-site conversion rates
  3. Target keyword rankings

In each case, set your review period to cover at least the last two years in order to identify your long-term trends, and then start evaluating each metric by source and medium. You’re looking for two things:

  1. Your long-term web traffic trend: ideally it’s increasing. If it’s not, you’ve got some content marketing and web traffic generation to do.
  2. Any peaks or valleys: these spikes will show you where you’ve been successful, and where you’ve floundered. Trace your successes back to the source and replicate those activities.

Step 3: Identify Your Biggest Content Successes

Content is king (as we’ve covered in a previous content marketing blog). And in every content campaign you’ll find pieces that perform better than others. Your goal is to identify why these particular posts worked and replicate that success in the new year.

To do so, begin by reviewing your most popular social posts to see what commonalities they share. Did you stumble on a particularly compelling social media hashtag? Did you catch the eye of one or two social influencers? Or did you manage to ride the coattails of a trend to gain some exposure of your own? Your goal is to distill 2018’s social media success into 2019’s calendar, so make sure to document what worked well and have your content marketing team tailor its efforts as appropriate.

Once you’ve reviewed your social media performance, it’s time to examine your on-site marketing content. Take a look at your website’s analytics and review your most popular posts and pages. Again, you’re looking for commonalities. Did your listicles outperform everything else? Are your white papers real hits? Identify what’s working, and double-down on your content marketing.

Step 4: Refocus on Your Industry and Your Audience

Markets evolve. What your target audience may have wanted in 2018 might be old news in the new year. Take some time to browse your trade press, industry groups, message boards, and other sources for what changes might be coming so that you can make sure your value proposition remains current.

Event better, survey your customer base in order to ensure that you’re still meeting their needs. The best way to stay in business is to meet your customers’ needs better than anyone else. And the better you know them, the more confident you can feel that you’ll be putting out the right message in 2019.

Step 5: Polish Your Brand Identity

If your business slows during the holiday season, you may find that it’s an ideal time to take care of low-hanging brand identity fruit that has fallen to the back burner all year. A creative refresh, website tune-up, or asset review may be the perfect task for the slower period.

Step 6: Re-Evaluate Your Marketing Stack

The marketing software that was the perfect solution to your needs two years ago may be showing its age today. Or worse, its costs could be rising. The end of the year is a good time to get a handle on whether or not you’ll need to upgrade your marketing stack in 2019. As you do, consider these questions to help assess your marketing software:

  • What is the business need that the marketing software solves?
  • How is it priced compared to its alternatives?
  • How much employee time would be gained or lost if you switched to a different tool?
  • What functionality would be lost or gained if you switched?
  • How much additional revenue do you think you could drive if you switched?


I hope that our six-step year-end marketing checklist helps you refocus and drive progress in the new year. If you have any questions or would like to discuss support with any of the items above, please contact Young Marketing Consulting today.

Does your organization conduct regular evaluations of its marketing strategy?

The smartest marketing functions regularly assess their marketing performance, identify areas where they can improve, and revise or build campaigns to address these challenges. There’s no time like the beginning of a new year to set your marketing strategy resolutions, which help focus and streamline your activities to focus on those areas that will drive improved marketing ROI. Below, we’ve mapped out 4 easily achievable new year’s resolutions that will allow your business to flourish in 2017 and beyond.

Marketing resolution #1: Set SMART campaign objectives

Marketing Strategy New Year's Resolutions for 2017

How many times have you sat in a meeting and heard something to the effect of “we need to get better at this”? In those situations, it’s easy for everyone to agree on a vague goal or action like “explore revenue opportunities in adjacent markets” and leave the room feeling like progress has been made. But in reality, this kind of decision making often leads to misalignment and poor marketing performance because it’s too general to help guide your efforts.

Enter our first marketing resolution: setting SMART marketing objectives (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Based).


Being specific means you are setting specific marketing performance metrics you want to achieve. Compare “get more people to come to our site” with “Increase site traffic to our subscription page by 15%”. The second statement gives your team a much more clear idea of your goal, making it easier to track progress and focus your efforts.


You won’t know whether or not your marketing strategy has succeeded unless you can measure your progress in some quantitative way. It can be easy to say “we want to be the best marketing company” or “we’re going to be people’s top choice for legal services,” but without any way to measure what “top” or “best” are, you’ll never know if you’ve achieved what your marketing set out to do. Make sure you’re setting measurable goals: improving social media mentions, increasing ad campaign ROI, growing the number of visitors to your website, etc.


Nothing frustrates leadership and employees more than unrealistic goals. I recently sat in a room with a small regional college’s marketing team and heard them say that they wanted to be the first college choice for all high school seniors in the state. Given their resources and the strength of their competition, this goal was wildly unrealistic, and I could already see how it was sapping their progress toward more achievable goals. When creating marketing strategy and campaign objectives, give yourself a reality check and ask yourself if this is something you believe the business can realistically achieve.


Your campaign objectives should be relevant to your business and how your business operates. Ask yourself why a particular marketing goal is necessary to your business or how it will help you achieve your strategic goals before proceeding. Often times, this simple test will help save thousands of dollars in wasted time and resources.


Deadlines get things done. More importantly, they bound a marketing campaign to an outcome within a particular time frame in order to assess progress toward a larger goal. Without a deadline, you might see a small sales increase in a month as a positive effect of your marketing campaign. But if you’re trying to achieve a five percent sales lift within a month, you may view your marketing campaign as underperforming due to the timeframe. If you’re working on a larger marketing campaign, create multiple milestones that build toward a larger objective in order to keep your team focused.

Marketing resolution #2: Test and measure channel ROI performance

You’ll never have all the time, budget, or staff you feel like you need to execute your marketing strategy, which is why measuring channel ROI performance is so important. Are you converting more leads from events and conferences or your website? Once those leads are converted, which are more likely to turn into customers? Evaluating your channel performance on a regular basis allows you to focus your resources on your marketing activities with the highest return, rather than trying to do everything at an equal level.

We’re currently working with a technology solutions provider to identify which of its marketing efforts lead to the greatest sales return for one of its products. We began by looking at the lead source of all of its customers, sales prospects, and new leads. In doing so, we found something interesting: the majority of its customers and sales prospects began as inbound web leads. This evaluation tells us that investing more resources in SEO and other online lead generation strategies will likely drive higher immediate returns than other channels, which will help them save marketing budget over the long run.

Marketing resolution #3: Be focused when working with limited resources

If you’re working with limited marketing resources, don’t lose hope. Two of our favorite marketing strategies below can help you make the most out of limited marketing budgets.

  • Use concentrated targeting: Concentrated targeting is an effective marketing strategy for smaller companies with limited resources. This strategy focuses on marketing to one well-defined, specific segment of a customer population in order to maximize your reach to this audience. Specific tactics could include establishing promotional relationships with associations or industry groups in your space, limiting your PPC advertising or direct mail efforts to a particular geography, or narrowing your content marketing to target a specific demographic. Although there are some disadvantages to this strategy – demand among your chose audience may fall, or you may mistarget your audience – it can create a huge competitive advantage over other companies who do not speak as directly to your chosen audience.
  • Stick to one channel: It’s always better to execute a single campaign in one channel well rather than trying to cover every possible channel where you may be likely to find customers. Take social media. While there are hundreds of potential sites you could advertise on, Facebook is near-ubiquitous, so we often recommend starting consumer-targeted campaigns on that channel first and assessing performance before expanding outreach efforts.

Marketing resolution #4: Keep your online presence active

Although it can be easy to get caught up in immediate business needs, keeping your online presence active is an essential marketing activity since the majority of customers will heavily research potential products and services online before making a purchase. In the short-term, an active presence will keep your business fresh in your target audience’s minds (which can help you create repeat customers). Longer-term, a sustained online presence will grow over time so that you can capture leads who are not aware of your company as they do their research.

Here are a few tips to keep your online presence active:

  • Blog often and consistently: Google’s algorithm prioritizes recent content, and when it comes to this content there’s nothing like blogging. In fact, websites with blogs have 434% more indexed pages, every one of which will be showing in search results to a user out there somewhere.
  • Stay active on social media: The more you share relevant material that your target audience will likely engage with, the better your chances of starting conversations with individuals and companies who have a strong chance to be your customers. This activity will also show up on various search engines and help with your search indexing.
  • Monitor your reviews (and solicit them!): One of the most powerful online tools marketers have are the reviews of satisfied customers. If you don’t have any reviews, it’s time to start reaching out to your customers to ask them to help. If you aren’t monitoring your reviews, be sure to keep an eye on the major review websites and respond to any negative reviews you’ve received so that they don’t damage your reputation.

We hope that these marketing strategy resolutions have been helpful for you. If you’d like to discuss how you can evaluate or improve your marketing strategy in 2017, contact Young Marketing Consulting today.

Now that the 2016 Olympic games in Rio have come to a close, we know which brands had success with their marketing campaigns. As the chart below shows, Coca-Cola, Samsung, and Visa took the gold, silver and bronze for most brand mentions on social media, while total Olympic sponsor mentions throughout the duration of the 2016 Rio Olympic games reached almost 217,000. Clearly, each of this year’s 11 worldwide Olympic partners have been effective in creating buzz-worthy marketing campaigns, but how did they do it? Let’s take a look at some noteworthy marketing observations from Rio 2016.

Rio 2016 Olympic Marketing Observations

Source: AdWeek

1. An experiential marketing strategy creates buzz:

As an iconic brand which has been an Olympic partner for 88 years, Coca-Cola, understands how to capture every aspect of the games. Their worldwide #ThatsGold marketing campaign encouraged consumers around the globe to enjoy (and share) everyday, simple moments that create that “gold feeling”. However, the campaign wasn’t just limited to TV advertisements and social media hash tags. Coke set up mini stages in 84 villages throughout Brazil designed to bring people together while celebrating the Olympic games. With a superb experiential marketing strategy, it’s no surprise that Coca-Cola attained 344,000 social media mentions during the games this year, the most of any brand sponsor.


2. Engage your target audience’s emotions: 

Proctor & Gamble has been airing its “Thank you, Mom” commercials since the 2012 games. This year, P&G’s campaign featured stories from the mothers of US Olympians Simone Biles, Ashton Eaton, Alex Morgan, Allyson Felix, and Lex Gillette. These personal accounts of the role that the athletes’ mothers played in their children’s success included an emotional commercial with the tagline “It takes someone strong to make someone strong” which on its own has reached nearly 21 million views just on YouTube. The secret to the video’s success? It hones in on the ideal relationship its target audience would like to have with their children.

Samsung also brought the waterworks this year with its #DoWhatYouCant campaign, which focused on Olympic athletes who have defied barriers in their lives. The commercial “The Chant” features Margret Rumat Rumat Hassan, the first South Sudanese Olympian, beside an outpouring of overwhelming emotion and support from her country. Samsung also created a short film about other Olympic athletes who have defied barriers and become part of the 1% of athletes who qualify for the Olympics games out of the millions who train. The campaign speaks to a new generation of Samsung’s audience who are all finding their voice in the world.


3. Fun never fails:

Visa, with 28,500 mentions the third most-mentioned brand at the 2016 Rio Olympics, created a series of commercials that conveyed a cheerful and upbeat energy. Visa’s “Carpool to Rio” commercial features Olympic athletes carpooling as the audience rides along on the competitors’ journey to Rio. The athletes laugh and have fun with one another on their trip, showing a glimpse of their personality and the excitement made possible by Visa’s products. If there’s anything we can learn from Visa’s carpool campaign, it’s that fun never fails to engage an audience who may take a product or service’s benefits for granted.


Inspired by Rio to examine your marketing strategy? Why not contact Young Marketing Consulting to discuss how your brand can capture some magic of your own.


Welcome to the third and final post in our series on maximizing the time you spend on marketing. Here’s what we’ve covered so far:

Now, it’s time to get tactical. Your goal during this stage is to structure your marketing channels so that you can “set and forget” them. In other words, build your marketing platform so that it’s always working for you in the background while you tend to sales and operations. To do that, let’s dive into the four tactics that will help you maximize the time you spend on marketing:

  1. Implement the Basics of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  2. Establish a Digital Advertising/Search Engine Marketing Presence
  3. Set up Your Marketing Automation System
  4. Prepare for Inbound Lead Generation


1. Implement the Basics of Search Engine Optimization

“SEO is like breathing. You just need to do it, every day.”

This quote is from Frank, our head of Digital Marketing, and it sums up the essence of search engine optimization. So many SEO books have been written, and so many more blogs have been posted on various SEO tips and recommendations, that the core of SEO can be obscure for the layman. But SEO’s three pillars are much simpler than they seem:

The three phases of SEO

The three phases of SEO

  1. Optimize your website “under the hood” so that your pages have the strongest density of key terms you want to be known for in the right places in your site’s code (your URLs, your page titles, etc.)
  2. Publish regular content that includes your keywords, which will keep your site fresh in search results
  3. Get people to share your content and link to your website (ideally using your keywords in their links)

We recommend using Google’s excellent Keyword Planner tool to identify the target keywords you’ll use as the cornerstone of your search engine optimization strategy. Once you’ve got your SEO terms, review your website and make sure that those terms are reflected in the areas of your site such as your URLs, header tags, and internal links. After you’ve taken care of the basic nuts and bolts, it’s time to start creating new content. Set aside a day, write four blog posts that feature your target keywords, and then set them to publish weekly for four weeks. Repeat this process each month, track your progress using Google Analytics, and Google Webmaster Tools, and adjust your content as necessary.


2. Establish a Digital Advertising/Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Presence

Search engine marketing goes hand-in-hand with SEO. But whereas SEO is a more passive, “organic” channel, digital/PPC advertising lets you jump to the front of the search engine results page (SERP) line. Because of that efficacy, your pay-per-click advertising strategy should be different than your SEO strategy in one significant way:

Use SEM to target new audiences, rather than the existing terms where you rank well organically.

For example, if Young Marketing Consulting was ranking highly for, well, marketing consulting, but not as highly as a digital marketing agency, we would want to invest in PPC advertising campaign to put us in the top results for Washington DC digital marketing agencies.

SEM/PPC Ad Best Practice from Google

How do you write good PPC ad copy? Look no further than Google!

The next thing you want to do in a strong digital marketing campaign is to create an experience that will reward your leads for giving you their information. What offer will draw their interest enough to click on your ad, and once they land on your page what will give them that extra nudge to sign up?

Finally, you want to think about where (and when) your audience will be. If you’re selling breakfast food, there’s little point in advertising after 10 am or so. And if you’re only operating in the Washington DC metro area, for example, you’ll want to limit your ads as appropriate.

Once you’ve established the areas above, you’ll just need to set your budget, turn on your campaign, and let the software do the work.


3. Set up Your Marketing Automation System

Marketing Automation is one of our favorite aspects of digital marketing. Ultimately, what we all want is to make the process of generating and nurturing leads as pain-free as possible, which is the promise of marketing automation. There’s only one problem: setting up an automation platform requires you to invest a lot of upfront work to get up and running. Luckily, you’re working with a marketing firm with a lot of marketing automation experience.

The most important key to success for any marketing automation effort is to have your business rules clearly defined ahead of time. Think of your business rules as a series of IF/THEN statements. If a lead does X, what should happen? Keep building out these statements until you reach the end of the line. Take your ideal workflow to everyone who will be affected by your marketing automation and see if there are any outliers you aren’t covering. Once you’ve got your business rules blessed, it’s time to build your system.

One of the most common questions we get asked as a marketing consultant is to recommend a particular software suite for marketing automation. There are roughly four thousand possible choices, and the real answer is that most of them are exactly the same. They all allow you to customize your fields and workflows, create autoresponders, group and track leads and contacts, etc., so the tool you use will come down to personal taste. Pick the tool that best fits how you’d like to work and you’re off to the races.

Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic

Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic

4. Drive Inbound Lead Generation through Offers

Finally, now that you’ve got your marketing automation infrastructure in place, the last step is to continually put out offers to your audience that will entice them to take action and either give you their contact information or make a purchase. These are the “carrots” that will draw potential leads to you, and there are a few tips for making them valuable. The ideal inbound lead generation content is:

  • Time-Sensitive – it’s hitting your lead at the right time, driving them to take an action within a certain window
  • Unique – it separates your offer from the others out there
  • Valuable – what you’re offering is valuable enough to drive action on your potential lead’s part
  • Personalized – something that speaks to your individual lead’s core
  • Repetitive – you’re not just doing it once and seeing what happens. You’re putting the offer out over a long enough period of time to see if it truly performs

With the above set up, you’ll be in great shape to maximize your inbound lead generation in no time!

Thanks very much for reading our series. If you have any questions or would like to discuss anything related to SEO, SEM, marketing automation and inbound lead generation, please contact Young Marketing Consulting today!



What’s the most valuable asset in your business?

I recently posed this question to a room full of business owners, and received the usual answers: people, process, intellectual property, and more. And while these suggestions weren’t necessarily wrong, I was surprised at how long it took until a member of the group volunteered what I consider to be the correct answer: time.

Time is the only resource your business can never make or buy more of, and there’s never enough.

So how can we invest in areas that maximize our time? The answer, as we’ll see, lies in harnessing the potential of modern digital marketing and automation. But we’re getting ahead ourselves.

If you’re in charge of marketing a small business, experiencing significant growth at any size organization, or maturing your marketing function, you’re probably facing a scenario where immediate operational concerns regularly overwhelm the time you feel you can devote to more long-term investments such as marketing. Last week we tackled the question of how much time you should be spending on marketing. This week, we’re going to assume you’ve referenced our handy marketing spend benchmark guide and know how much time and money you can invest in advertising and promotions. In both cases it’s probably less than you’d like, so its time to get strategic about how you’re invest.

A Four-Step Marketing Strategy When You Don’t Have Time for Marketing

Any good digital marketing effort begins with a solid strategy. Building that foundation by following the four steps below will help you maximize the effectiveness of your time spent on marketing.


1. Identify your target audience

Every marketing agency and consultant will trot out this chestnut, but it’s never been more true than in today’s digital marketing world. You’re about to start making decisions about where to invest your limited resources, and the easiest way to do so is by narrowing your focus on a core market. That’s why we’ve defined a target audience as follows:

Your target audience = defined demographic or psychographic segments that allow you to narrow your promotional efforts to fit your resources and generate a positive return

Demographics are the measurable areas such as income or revenue that dictate whether your customer can buy from you, while psychographics are the values and attitudes that determine whether they will. Defining both in as granular detail as possible is the starting point of any solid marketing strategy.


2. Build your channel strategy

Your marketing channels are those advertising paths you’ll take to reach your target audience. And while the internet gives today’s digital marketer a nearly infinite number of advertising platforms, your channel strategy should be based on those efforts that will scale with as little effort on your end as possible and are in heaviest use by your target audience. We’ll be addressing those channels more in the second part of this series, but for now here are some teasers for those who like to work ahead:

  • Searching Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM/PPC Advertising)
  • Marketing Automation
  • Inbound Lead Generation


3. Create your business logic

Solidifying your business logic is THE critical step to saving time in your marketing efforts, but very few companies spend time in this area. Why? Because business logic looks like this:

Marketing Automation Flowchart Example


It’s a tedious exercise to go through every scenario and permutation of how, for example, your organization captures and nurtures a lead, but doing so is a critical step in order to create a replicable marketing process. To ease the pain, try thinking like a computer: if X happens, then Y happens. For example, if a lead submits a web form and asks for a quote, then they’ll be routed to your sales team.

The more you codify your business logic, the more you’ll recognize inflection points and set yourself up for a strong marketing automation function when it comes time to build your system (which we’ll cover next week).


4. Prepare your carrots

The last element of our time-saving marketing strategy concerns your offers. At its core, digital marketing is about information exchange: your goal is to provide your target audience with something that they consider valuable enough to give you either their money or some piece of information that you can use to market to them in the future. So what are those carrots that you’ll dangle in front of your audience?

Carrots can range from discounts and special offers to exclusive deals to well-researched guides and tutorials, but you won’t necessarily know what works until you try them. So what you want to do at this stage is to sit down and develop your offers. Plan them out over the course of your campaign, and then incorporate them into your marketing channels.

What’s that you say? We haven’t gotten into the marketing channels yet? Patience, gentle reader. Part 2 of How to Market When You Don’t Have Time for Marketing is coming next week.